Thursday, August 07, 2008
Is LaVar breaking the law?
(Images from LaVar for Congress.com)
Do you remember the LaVar Christensen? Last cycle, Jim Matheson crushed him to the tune of 59% to 37%, despite LaVar's "America Needs Utah" slogan. Currently, he is trying to regain his seat in the Utah House of Representatives.
A source informed me that LaVar is currently an LDS singles ward Bishop somewhere in Sandy and has been conscripting his parishioners into doing things like stuffing envelopes for his state house campaign at his aforementioned singles ward. (Apparently, he tried to pull a similar stunt by using taxpayer money to produce pro-LaVar propaganda for school children) For someone who wishes to be a lawmaker again, he sure seems ignorant of the law.
The LDS Church, like other religious organizations in the U.S., are organized as tax exempt non-profits under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. To gain its tax exempt status, the Church was "required to make certain representations, including a representation that it will not participate in any political campaign on behalf of, or against, any candidate for political office." Branch Ministries, Inc. v. Rossotti, 40 F. Supp.2d 15, 19 (D.D.C. 1999), aff'd, 211 F.3d 137 (D.C. Cir. 2000). If a church engages in political activities, the IRS can revoke that church's tax exempt status (not withstanding the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause). Id., 40 F. Supp. 2d at 20, 24-27.
Naturally, the Church leadership repeatedly admonishes its members and lay ministers not to use Church facilities or supplies for political activity. Remember when some Mormon thought using a BYU alumni list to raise money for Mitt Romney was a good idea? The Church came down hard on that one. Currently, they are attempting to thread the needle on the issue of gay marriage in California.
They may be willing to test the bounds of the definition of "political activity" over the issue of gay marriage and the Church's official level of participation in this fall's ballot inititive to overturn the Califorinia Supreme Court's decision. But I highly doubt that they are willing to risk their non-profit status for someone like LaVar "Tolerance is the religion of people who no longer believe in anything" Christensen.
Oh, and LaVar, if God really wanted you to be in the state legislature (as you claim), he wouldn't have told you to drop out of the House so that you would get beaten like a mule by Jim Matheson in 2006.